Well, we had a crazy beginning of the trip- that's the only way I know how to describe it- in fact, if I hadn't lived it I don't know that I would believe that it actually happened. Here goes- I'll go through the trip until we arrive in Romania and take a break for today. It will actually be a pretty long post so hang in there!
We had to be at the airport around noon- our flight was scheduled to leave just before 2. We got there and the monitor was still saying the plane was leaving on time but we were told it was about 30 minutes delayed. We didn't have a tight connection in Chicago- the big thing was that some were going to have to get seats (I had a seat number so didn't have to worry about it)- we were supposed to have about a 2 hour layover- no problem right?? Wrong!! Our plane didn't end up leaving until about 3:30 (after they had to take a couple people off the plane due to weight issues). Knoxville is one hour ahead of Chicago so that meant it was about 2:30 and it's right about a 2 hour flight. Well, as it turned out we landed in Chicago right as the plane to Vienna was taking off- United had radioed ahead and told them there were 17 people on our flight to make that plane and they wouldn't hold it for us. So, we missed our flight to Vienna. We landed in Terminal 1 and went to Terminal 5 (international terminal) anyway- hoping someone could help us. We hung out there for about 45 minutes before they (Austrian Air) sent us back to Terminal 1 (United's counter).
We then went to the United counter (by now it's about 5:30) and sat there for about 4 hours before they got it all figured out and rerouted us. They put us up in a hotel and gave us a meal voucher. Now, keep in mind that we are outside security and there's nothing in the way of food and drink there in that terminal. So, other than snacks- none of us had eaten since noon. Well, by the time we found a McDonald's we could get to it was close to 10. About 10 we ended up downstairs because now they were trying to locate our baggage because that was also going to have to be rerouted. Finally about 11 we went out to get on the shuttle bus to the hotel and we made it there and got checked in about 11:30. We then collapsed and had to be at the airport by 6 for our 8:00 flight. We get there and get checked in (meanwhile- trusting that they will do what they say and get our luggage rerouted to New York). Our new flight plan had us flying into LaGuardia, shuttling to JFK and then flying to VIenna. While we were eating breakfast they told us that they had 6 of us without seats (I was one of them). We had confirmed seats but there were no seats available so they had to try to get people off so the 6 of us (in a group of 15) could get on. My pastor went over and talked to them and somehow got us on that flight. That one also left late- about 30 minutes or so late. We landed in LaGuardia where we had to pick up our baggage so we can check it in at JFK and 29 out of 30 bags made it to LaGuardia- I thought those were pretty good odds considering the crazyiness of the day so far. We then went to wait for "ten minutes" (it turned out to be closer to 30-45 minutes) for the shuttle to JFK. We drove past Shea Stadium and one of the football stadiums and then through Queens.
We got checked in at JFK, ate lunch and headed to the gate. We ended up loading on time (and we thought we would be leaving on time)- NOPE! We sat at the gate for about a half hour (meanwhile they told one of our ladies with us that one of her pieces of luggage didn't make the plane because they ran out of time to load it) and then sat on the runway for about an hour and a half waiting our turn in line. We were supposed to leave about 5:45 and we ended up leaving at 8:00). We had the long flight and landed in Vienna. The thing was our Pastor and his son were the only two confirmed on the connecting flight to Timosoara that day. The rest of us were not confirmed until the next day. So, while he was getting all of his stuff taken care of we hung out for about another 45 minutes. Then we hung out downstairs in the entrance area for about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours while our leader worked on getting us more hotel vouchers (our church was going to pay for it if they didn't). However, they put us up at the hotel and we headed out in the taxis to go there- when we got there we didn't have the reservation so the lady at that hotel called Austrian Air and found out they had sent us to the wrong hotel and so we had to go back to the airport because "our" hotel was the one right across the street from the airport. We finally got checked in (after waiting in the hotel lobby for about 45 minutes) and were able to take a shower and rest until about 5 (we checked in about 3). So, for four hours we had been waiting (and waiting some more). We ended up going into Vienna and spending some time in Center City (or City Center). We ate at Restaurant Gutenberg and then ate some awesome ice cream while walking up to St. Stephens Dome. We then made it back to the hotel and I crashed about 9:00. We had a HUGE continental breakfast as part of our room and then headed over the airport around 11 to check in.
We were finally leaving- however, we had to sit through another delay on the plane to Timisoara. We were supposed to leave around 1:40 and we didn't end up leaving until about 2:15. We landed about 4:00 and then had trouble in the small customs area. We were bringing medicine in for a free clinic (I didn't have any in my bag) and they had changed the rules since the last time- well, by the grace of God we were able to get through and get loaded. It was by this time about 4:45 and we headed straight to the church- unloaded and prepared for a night of VBS at the church we were working with and that started at 6. We hit the ground running and never looked back. So that is the beginning of our journey. We left on Friday, the 15th and were supposed to land on the 16th (Saturday). However, we didn't get to Romania until the Monday, the 18th.
A couple of trip facts:
- only 3 flights left on time- the one we missed, the one leaving Timosoara for Vienna (the day we left), and the one leaving Chicago for Knoxviile (the day we came home)
- We were in 6 different airports before we arrived there (Knoxville, Chicago, LaGuardia, JFK, Vienna, Timosoara)
Crazy beginning huh? I'll be taking some time the rest of this week to fill you in on the remaining parts of our trip!
Have a great Monday!
Edited on Monday night to put spaces in the post. It was hurting my eyes to look at it! I hope it all makes sense!